Chapter 29:

Last Stand

The Melancholy of a Whimsical Half-Elph

“I got this,” Enne thought. “It’s only a few of them anyway… Eh, nope!”

Enne bolted in the opposite direction. The dull pain pulsated throughout her chest as she passed the first hangar. Her pursuers solely focused on her as they coordinated their movement. Enne slid around a corner, evading one that tried to pin her down. It caught her ankle and slammed her face-first onto the concrete when she tried to kick it. It began twisting her ankle when she tried to shake it off. She blasted it from a few orbs in her palm. It staggered away, blinded by its obstructed vision.

I think I found an exploit. Enne ran off, ignoring the crippling pain she felt.

Another cyborg blocked her path. Enne slammed into the wall during her slide and dodged its grab. She successfully swept at its leg with her injured ankle but hurt herself again. Enne clung to the wall as she limped away. Her teeth were clenched. A sudden explosion sent her violently tumbling through the wall and crashing through the other side. When she slowly came to her senses, she found herself at the base's entrance.

Her hearing rang over the distant distortions. Enne tried desperately to get on her feet. Her eyes trailed the approaching cyborg as it quickly grabbed her by the throat. While she struggled, it lifted her off her feet. Its free hand turned into a drill. Her eyes widened in horror when she recognized its composition: Draco-glass.

This is bullshit! she thought. She tried desperately to loosen its grip. Knowing she couldn’t break its hold easily, Enne caught the drill with her scaley hand. It jammed initially before slowing, grinding against her palm’s rough surface. Her breathing became restricted as it tightened its grip. It glimpsed another approaching cyborg behind her. Fuck that!

Enne threw her thighs against its long arm and wrestled it off balance. The other cyborg haphazardly walked into the Draco-glass-infused drill. The drill shredded its face when it swiped across. She successfully twisted its arm off and rolled away despite slamming onto concrete. She took a deep breath while observing their speedy recovery.

“Close call,” she gasped. “I gotta go… But…where? Shit. Think, Enne. Where?”

Enne ran toward the perimeter and hopped over it after using her clawed hand to throw her over. Her botched landing sent her sliding against the ground. Her body couldn’t take it. Enne saw the starry sky for what it was in a moment of respite. Its brilliant hues revealed the constellation and galaxies. It reminded her of home. The androids could ruin the moment without warning.

“I can’t stop—now,” Enne said. She stammered to her feet and held herself against a tree. Her eyes looked past the trees. Her panting became controlled with resolve. “Allie… I will find you.”

She hid behind a tree as her pursuers scouted the area. She kept a low profile as she shifted between trees. They couldn’t detect her now that they likely used internal instruments to search for her. She struggled to maintain her strength as she reached the top. Enne looked around after finally seeing the other side of the base. The airships had finally arrived, and the sirens continued droning throughout. Small lights disappeared into the forest’s darkness. It was the rebels, as the base seemed to assume a defensive position.

“It’s going to be another long night,” she sighed.

A blast shredded past her. Enne held her breath, distinguishing their discerning movements. The conflict had soothed since her arrival. Her eyes trailed the illuminated skyline. She knew she had to win out despite the crafty nature of the androids. Enne hid away when the rustling shifted through the brush. The moonlight couldn’t penetrate the darkness, but their laser sight mapped the area before them. She drifted against the large tree, and she held her breath and allowed them to pass.

They can’t pick up on me? She wondered.

Enne summoned the courage to follow them, switching out of sight when they looked around. She readied her clawed fingers and moved in to strike. She swiped against the nape of one but messed up it when the organic wires kept the head from falling off. It wobbled about, alerting the others with its strange squeal.

“The fuck?” she gasped. She hopped onto an android’s arm when it tried to catch her. Enne drove her hand into its chest, realizing something peculiar. “Guts? But—These things look so—”

A blast interrupted her thought as she tore through several trees. It led back to the base. She struggled to move as she looked over her shoulder. The one she had punched into gurgled forward along with the rest. Its body moved erratically while its wounds healed. Enne didn’t want to know what experiments they were doing. Why maintain organic physiology if they were meant for battle? Enne dodged another blast rupturing a path into the base.

Can I? she wondered.

She dashed around them, barely missing their observing eyes. Enne swung an energy ball into the air, glimpsing its blinding flash before lowering her head. Some stammered and recalibrated their senses. The half-elph sprung to action; she shot another ball between trees and shrubs. However, the cyborgs’ reactions were dulled. Enne delivered a well-timed sweep as she slid toward them. Her hands immediately drove into the side of its head. A strange sensation gripped her that moment as the machine shut down.

Enne rolled away before another could grab her. She slung mud at its eyes to allow her to maneuver out. Reaching for the nearest fallen branch, she slammed it into the ankle of the next one that tried to pick her up. It left a dent that left it shambling away. Enne got onto her feet quickly with the elegant maneuvering of the sturdy branch. Mana coursed through it before she slammed it into the muddy grounds.

The earth ruptured, sending her pursuers flinging to the side. One that had stood in her path was shredded to pieces. Her hair rested over her shoulder as she remained calm. The cyborgs kept their distance. The one to her side began to twitch. Her attention drifted toward it, discovering its lilac eyes. Enne narrowed her eyes in anticipation. When it finally stood, it walked toward her but remained disengaged. A smile crept along her face.

“Hell yes!” she shouted. She pointed at one of them, watching as the cyborg dashed forward.

It took some time until they realized it wasn’t within their network. Enne seized the opportunity, bouncing against a nearby tree to throw herself against her opponents. She broke her descent when she grabbed one by the neck and twisted its head off with ease. Her evasion was floaty yet measured as she caught the whim of each potential strike. All the while, her fingers had jammed into the neural network of the detached head. Another parry gave her an easy opportunity to strike back. Her seamless footwork resulted in a graceful twist before lugging the head at the cyborgs. The heavy head flipped over. She caught it without a moment to waste.

She glanced at the other enemies with a satisfied grin as her eye lit up. Twisting once more, she launched it at them. Another powerful hit lopped its arm off, and a chorus of robotic screams sent chills down her spine. The cyborg she infected wrestled down another, tearing itself apart. The constant regeneration despite the gradual dismantling of their bodies was an uneasy sight to behold from the treetop’s height.

“En!” Alejandro’s voice called out. She looked in his voice’s direction, finding the winged beast approach.

“A—Allie?” she gasped.

A purple beam shot through the winged beast, sending it diving into the forest. Enne jumped atop each branch, bursting with momentum on the third. She arched over and landed on the injured snallygaster. She scooped him into his arm and hopped off. Alejandro felt the falling sensation as he glimpsed the skyline and the base within his peripheral. Enne smiled to his contained panic as they plunged. The landing was as quick as the plunge; She gently set him down, exchanging a silent glance. Though Alejandro hid his pain from his resurfacing condition, his partner was all too aware of it through his dwindling mana. A tear rolled down her face.

“En?” he sighed. She gently clenched his hand.

“Why?” she asked. “You’re—dying, yet here you are.”

His eyes averted briefly before locking his gaze on hers.

“I’ve always spent my life on the sidelines. I think it’s time for me to atone. Besides, you think I’d let you do this on your own?”

“No,” she replied. “Of course not.”

“Then… Let’s have this last dance.”

Enne let out a whimper before steeling herself. She nodded as she helped him up. The second cyborg was finally under her control. Alejandro leaned against her as she helped him forward. She felt mana begin to course through her. Through the side of her eye, she saw he had his eyes closed. His vitals were stable each step of the way. There was no arguing with him once he set his mind on something. She slowly raised her hands in unison with the vines that broke through the surface. They slithered along the trees, waiting for her subtle gesture. The cyborgs had worn down from a prolonged fight that lent to their degradation. Alejandro observed with indifference, despite the human-like cries.

“What are we looking at?” he asked.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out,” she replied. “I… Infected them.”

“Infected them?”

“My blood has unique properties… Just like she said.”

“Who’s the sly one that said that?”

“It’s—hard to explain.”

Her hand shifted upward, sending a barrage of vines from around them. Some clustered into drill-like appendages that drove into the uninfected cyborgs. As nature drove back the cybernetic beings, a loud rumbling proceeded throughout the hillside. The couple proceeded. The more mana increased, the more powerful the assault. Enne grew worried when his body began to quiver. His grunts hid his pain but weren’t enough for Enne to remain level-headed.

“Allie,” she said. “Stop! This is enough. You can’t—”

“No,” he raised his voice. “We’re going to show them exactly who you are!”

As he focused the last bit of energy, the forest became more alive as more roots sprang against their opponents. One by one, they were torn apart, saving all but the pair Enne infected. The cyborgs slowly disintegrated into the earth while nature slowly withdrew. Enne trembled, not because of Alejandro’s power, but the blood he coughed up. He chuckled as he wobbled against her. Enne picked him up, with countless thoughts running through her mind.

“Hell,” he gasped. “That wasn’t much of a dance.”

“S—shut up,” Enne panicked. “Now isn’t the time for poorly-timed jokes.”

“Enne… It’s over.”

Her heart skipped a beat. She didn’t have a reply, cradling him instead. Her warmth soothed him as his faint feelings stabilized. Enne shook her head tearfully as she pressed forward. His breathing grew heavy while her vision blurred. The infected cyborgs followed beside them as they emerged back on base. She knew if she let him go, his health would deteriorate immediately. Her mana began to wither with each stride. Cire awaited their arrival on top of the hangar. She clapped while maintaining her emotionless expression. Enne growled lowly, easing herself once she remembered she held Alejandro against her.

“That was quite the show,” Cire spoke.

“What do you want from me?” Enne asked. The cyborgs fell into position and were ready to attack.

“What I want is what you want.”

Enne’s eyes lowered toward a barely conscious Alejandro. The cyborgs immediately fell apart and disintegrated. She shot a cold glare at the dark elph, watching as she lowered her hand.

“There is no need for those,” she continued. “We should let the dead rest, not be tools for tomorrow’s wars.”

“Name your price,” Enne’s voice trembled. “If it’s me you want, then I’ll gladly go. Just save him!”

“Price? There is none. The world may function on a transactional basis, but not between us. Let him go.”

“What? If I do—”

The hangar to the east slowly creaked open. They turned to see the massive door move to the side and revealed a piloted mech. It stood at 25 feet with a slender physique. Gold accented its white body. Its blue eyes gazed upon them as they shuffled forward. Cire’s lips pursed. She withheld her laughter while Enne took a few steps back.

“Time to put an end to this,” Janus yelled through the microphone. “I’ve lost everything because of you!”

“Enne,” Cire said. The half-elph looked over her shoulder to find Cire next to them. “Let him go. Everything will be all right.”

Alejandro found the strength to stand with Enne’s help. He stammered forward, facing the machine before them. His counterpart wouldn’t let go knowing the repercussions. Upon glimpsing Cire’s slight nod, Enne let go of his hand.

At that moment, time came to a crawl.

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